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Supporting baby to develop receptive language, and vocabulary.

Babies pay a lot of attention to the sounds and the intonation of the languages used around them. As they do, they develop receptive language, which means understanding what’s said. For example, most babies of this age understand some words for things that they hear often, such as ‘bottle’, ‘cup’ or ‘bye’.

Imitation and following instructions

As their understanding of words increases, baby can imitate speech sounds and respond to simple requests – for example, ‘clap hands’ ('paki paki') if asked to, or look for something when named – ‘Kei hea te kurī?’ (‘Where is the dog?’).

Using parentese

Parents often speak to their baby in ‘parentese’, the high pitched, singsong language that’s easier for baby’s brain to process.

Choosing words carefully

Parents might also want to think about their choice of words at this time, when baby is so busy building their receptive vocabulary.

Family ‘pet’ names which may seem very cute could end up being a source of confusion, or even teasing as they get older. Pet names may need to be unlearned so baby can be understood by others outside of the family.

Parents may also want to think about what sort of language (such as swear words) their child is hearing used around them, and consider whether they are happy about that or not. Remembering that a baby will copy what they hear.

Using parallel and self-talk

Another way parents can help build baby’s receptive language is to use ‘parallel talk’ (which means saying what’s happening as it happens) and ‘self-talk’ (saying what you’re doing as you do it). Sharing rhymes, fingerplay, songs and books every day will build a strong foundation for baby’s language development.

Helping build baby’s vocabulary

Research shows that the more words babies and young children hear, the more words they learn to say. Feed a baby’s mind by surrounding them with language.

Visit the Talking Matters website for more information(external link)